Mike Garvey goes hunting: Something Good ... twice over
- Credit: Archant
Mick Garvey has to make good on a promise and enlists the help of a couple of useful hunting aids
Every once in a while, something good comes along. For me, it was double-good because two good things came along. Firstly, a Jack Pyke Galbraith smock in forest brown camo design arrived, along with a few other items I had ordered. Nothing special there, you might say, but after the very first day out I was extremely impressed with it. Not only was it comfortable to wear and superb at keeping the wind and light rain off, but it also gave me the ability to blend in perfectly with my surroundings.
On my way to fill the feeders, armed only with my camera and a huge rucksack of feed, I noticed something out of place on the hedge line, so keeping myself close to the hawthorns, I made my way to a point where I could see exactly what it was, and soon, I was within 60 yards of a fox just lying in the sun, staring out into the field. I dropped to one knee and rapidly started to click away with the Canon. I felt confident that it hadn’t recognised any danger so I decided to get a little closer. I was now within 45 yards and still it sat there whilst I clicked away, and it wasn’t until I broke away from my background cover that it slowly sat up, looked at me and then strolled off. I’m sure it really didn’t know exactly what was approaching, but decided to move away, but I have to put this down to the camo I was wearing because I have seen foxes here before and never got anywhere near as close as this.
To back up this theory, on my way back I managed to get up close and personal with a few pheasants and rabbits. One of the pheasants was pure white and, as you know, pheasants are not prone to hanging around for long once they spot one of us humans.
Further confirmation of how well the forest brown camo was working came the next day. Whilst I was sitting still, and overlooking a couple of my feeders, another fox came within 10 feet of me. Luckily, I was checking my phone’s battery level as the fox approached and I managed to click off a handful of pictures as it came straight toward me, unsure of what was in front of it, but curious. In typical fashion, my phone died before I could get a real close-up, so I decided to squeak at it and hold my hand out. This stopped it dead in his tracks, but it didn’t run, just sniffed the air turned and walked off.
I was becoming super-impressed with this outfit and before the day was over I had managed to walk up to within 25 yards of a feeding squirrel, this time armed with my camera so plenty of photos were taken. The tree rat lived for another day because as soon as I picked up the gun, it hopped off the feeder, picked up some loose offerings from the ground and headed slowly off around the back of the beech tree. I considered it a fair trade-off for the photos, but next time it wouldn’t be so lucky.
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Food for friends
I had promised a good friend a few squirrels and pigeons. He was keen to try out a few recipes after he’d seen my copy of ‘Delicious Vermin’, by our very own Rosie Barham so today had to be successful because he was going to meet me when I’d finished. It was a cool, still day which didn’t impress me because I like a little breeze to keep the pigeons moving, but I would carry on with my usual enthusiasm, and the pressure was on.
The pheasant season is now over, and it was nice to have the woods quiet from the shotguns. I had arranged to borrow a pheasant feeder, which had been placed in an area where I didn’t have one of my homemade feeders, and I had blocked off one side of the feed tray to slow down the amount of feed taken, but my plan of attack was to oversee the established, homemade ones first.
You can generally set your watch by the amount of time it takes the squirrels to come back in after settling down, and usually 20-30 minutes is the standard. True to form, I spotted an unmistakeable movement in the treetops, signalling the skinnys returning for their brunch. I tracked the lead squirrel from around 80 yards out, all the way to the feeder at 40 yards from me, and it was easy with the crystal-clear Airmax, and the shot was just a formality for the .25 high-power FX Impact. An Air Arms pellet made contact exactly on the sweet spot and my mate’s meal was looking good. The following squirrels never came in, though, and must have turned tail and legged it.
A few pigeons settled in the beech trees around me, and although they presented a clear shot, none of them offered anything but a shot up the jacksie, which is a big no-no. A clean kill from a headshot or a ‘between the shoulders’ shot is always preferred, and after all, it was only a matter of time before one presented itself perfectly, and it did about 55 yards away and slightly upward from my vantage point. I am so confident with my set-up that it’s now second nature to take these shots, so with the crosshairs set just above its head I knew it was a hit before the 25-grain pellet reached its target. The satisfying thud of the woodie hitting the ground made me smile as usual, but an accompanying clang had me thinking, ‘What the hell?’ and on retrieving the woodie I found that it had fallen onto the last remaining dustbin-type pheasant feeder, coming to rest on the paving slab underneath. Unfortunately, this was my only pigeon of the day and backs up my theory about needing some wind to keep them moving.
Back to the squirrels. They had become more active and I managed to miss the most simple of shots at 30 yards when a tree rat bolted like a scalded cat, and I can be almost certain that it was my breathing to blame. I always take the shot just before coming to full exhale, and then fully exhale just after the shot, but this time for some reason I held my breath ¬– stupid mistake and one I’ll try not to do again anytime soon.
I put this to the back of my mind and pressed on, now under pressure to get my friend’s supper. The next area was alive with squirrels, well a fair few, anyway and I took one with what I can only call a ‘reflex shot’, bringing up the FX and almost seamlessly taking the shot and dropping the grey from a low-down branch. A second closely followed from one of the feeders, and I was now feeling much happier after the miss and knowing that there would be a good few for David, my mate. The squirrels have really made a mess of some of the beech trees here, and I swear I can hear a sigh of relief every time one drops. It was getting close to our meet-up time, but I managed to take another squirrel and a bonus crow before heading to our rendezvous point. David was already there waiting, and I had to push him into posing with one of his squirrels. His next chore was to breast one of the pigeons, which he unashamedly, 100% refused to do, so with the second good thing that had come my way I decided to show David how it’s done.
Now, if you thought I was impressed with the Galbraith jacket, then get ready for this. I had been given a small axe by Blades and Bows with the remit of ‘take it and test it and tell me honestly what you think’. It’s known as the PBK Hunters’ Hatchet, and is a small, single-handed hatchet, sharp as anything I have in my kit, a perfect weight and makes easy work of de-limbing and skinning the squirrels. I even breasted the pigeon with it, instead of my Ganzo, to prove how well it held its edge after the squirrel. It comes with a nylon blade protector and retails at £12.99 +p&p, but I was honestly so impressed with it I asked Nick at Blade and Bows if he’d be interested in doing a special offer for Airgun World readers and after some negotiating we came up with a deal. If you order using the code ‘MICK’, then it can be yours for £6.99 + p&p, and for a small axe that fits into your backpack, or even a pocket, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
David was well chuffed with the pigeon and squirrels and even sent me photos of the ‘before and after’ cooking shots of the meal. I have only one complaint ... he didn’t save me any!
As this goes to editing I have now skinned and de-limbed five squirrels and breasted half a dozen woodpigeons with the PBK hatchet, and I have just given it the first run over with the sharpener in readiness for its next outing – and I’ll tell you all about that next month!